Week 6_Reading Note

Jean Baudrillard’s essay, The Ecstasy of Communication discusses the change from the idea that object is a mirror of subject to that of object is a screen or network for the subject. He discusses through many forms, that man kind is losing public and private space, as all is being melded together through a system of spectacles being constantly pushed into our lives.

What the group discussed was how we could potentially change this. With technology such as TV, and advertisements taking up the modern world, how can we seclude ourselves from such an information overload? Is it possible to go back to when people put meaning into objects, when they were not used purely as just form?

Baudrillard discusses the “ecstasy of communication” as the single dimension we use to function to provide information. He discusses the loss of personal space and how all communication covers all parts of life, and has no boundaries to what it carries.

What the group found interesting was how this relates to architecture.  As discussed in previous classes, the idea of advertisements taking over a building is a new issue architects look at when planning a building. When taking this article into mind, do architects now have to plan for lack of personal space? Do we have to over compensate for that? Do people want public spaces more or less?

Cambridge, 21/12/2012

Extracts from Baudrillard’s “The Ecstasy of Communication,” published in The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture:

[Consider] the famous Japanese car that talks to you, that “spontaneously” informs you of its general state and even of your general state, possibly refusing to function if you are not functioning well, the car as deliberating consultant and partner in the general negotiation of lifestyle, something — or someone: at this point there is no longer any difference — with which you are connected…

There is a problem here to the extent that this electronic “encephalization” and miniaturization of circuits and energy, the transistorization of the environment, relegates to total uselessness, desuetude and almost obscenity all that used to fill the scene of our lives. It is well known how the simple presence of the television changes the rest of the habitat into a kind of archaic envelope, a vestige of human relations whose very survival remains perplexing…

We are no longer a part of the drama of alienation; we live in the ecstasy of communication. And this ecstasy is obscene. The obscene is what does away with every mirror, every look, every image. The obscene puts an end to every representation…

It is no longer then the traditional obscenity of what is hidden, repressed, forbidden, or obscure; on the contrary, it is the obscenity of the visible, of the all-too-visible, of the more-visible-than-the-visible. It is the obscenity of what no longer has any secret, of what dissolves completely in information and communication…

In any case, we will have to suffer this new state of things, this forced extroversion of all interiority, this forced injection of all exteriority that the categorical imperative of communication literally signifies. 

Imagine if we substituted here “smartphone” for “car,” “MacBook” or “Facebook profile” for “television.” Baudrillard briefly addresses the old Marxist analysis of the obscenity of commodities, of the simplifying process by which objects, traditionally carriers of signs and symbols, become reduced to their exchange value. Their message becomes subordinated to the medium that imposes itself in its pure capitalist circulation. And if we extend this Marxist analysis to information, to the ecstasy of communication? Further obscenity, says Baudrillard. Schizophrenia. Not the loss of the real, not light years of estrangement from the real, not the pathos of distance and separation, but absolute proximity to the real, to the hyperreal, “the total instantaneity of things, the feeling of no defense, no retreat. It is the end of interiority and intimacy, the overexposure and transparence of the world which traverses [the schizo] without obstacle. He can no longer produce the limits of his own being, can no longer play nor stage himself, can no longer produce himself as mirror. He is now only a pure screen, a switching center for all the networks of influence.”

Too many conversations recently about the perils of facebook, about the death of alienation in this age of alienation, about the torrent of interconnectivity and its pernicious hold on post-adolescent identity.

I don’t know anything.

Dear, Dad. It is with great regret and sadness that I’m writing you. But I had to elope with my new girlfriend Tracy, because I wanted to avoid a scene with you and Mom . I’ve been finding real passion with Tracy. She is so kind, but I knew you would not approve of her because of all her piercing’s (she has six!), tattoos, her tight Motorcycle clothes, and because she is ten years older than I am. But it’s not only the passion, Dad. She’s pregnant. Tracy said that we will be very happy living together. She owns a trailer in the woods, and has a stack of firewood for the whole winter. We share a dream of having many more children. Not only that she has opened my eyes to the fact that marijuana doesn’t really hurt anyone. We’ll be growing it for ourselves and trading it with the other people in the commune for all the cocaine and ecstasy we want. In the meantime, we’ll pray that science will find a cure for AIDS so that Tracy can get better. She sure deserves it! So Don’t worry, I’m 16, and I know how to take care of myself. Someday, I’m sure we’ll be back to visit so you can get to know your many grandchildren. Love, your son, Jake. P.S. Dad, none of the above is true. I went with Todd to Target to get some video games. I just wanted to remind you that there are worse things in life than the school report card that’s on the kitchen table. Call me when it is safe for me to return home!